Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
At a "roast" Thuesday night for Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr., President Carter "thanked" the Speaker of the House for all he had done to help him - a simple Georgian who came to Washington with a crowd of Southerners. . . "some of us who didn't know where Pennsylvania Street was."
O'Neill helped Carter, the president said, by telling him to return congressional phone calls "in a hurry - and the first one I got was from Philadelphia about..."
The crowd of 900 that included House members, lobbyists and assorted other friends packing the Sheraton Park Ballroom roared with laughter. They, among all people, needed no explanation of the now-famous phone call of Rep. Joshua Eilberg of Philadelphia, the Democrat who urged Carter to fire U.S. Attorney David Marston.
For the most part the jokes were old ones - Hamilton Jordan and the pyramids, the pitfalls of Polish interpreters, slogging through a year of frustrations to get presidential programs through Congress. But those attending the Democratic Study Group's annual fund-raiser - sponsored by every kind of lobbyist group from the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union to the United Transportation Union - didn't seem to mind.
Then the president committed the unforgiveable sin at a roast of being master of ceremonies, put it, "this maudlin witness."
The president said that O'Neill in a short period of time had become one of "my closest friends," a man who "can make the masculine reference to 'love' be sincerely meaningfull." The President cussed the red rope which separated him from the auJience and met O'Neill in the middle of the ballroom for a monstrous bear hug from the 6-foot-4 speaker.
Later, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, (D-Mass.) said, "This is a typical Boston political gathering. It costs $200 if you come and $500 if you don't."
With Udall standing by helplessly watching his roast disintegrate into political backslapping, O'Neill responded with a team player's 100 percent support of the president in the programs he is trying to get through Congress. "Don't measure the score of the football game during the first quarter," he said.
The crowd included everyone from former senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, who was his usual sardonic best - "Why not honor Tip," McCarthy said at the reception before the dinner, "Who else have they got?" - to Suzie Park Thompson, the foremer aide to former House Speaker Carl Albert.
She has been a prominent witness in the Tongsun Park congressional influence-buying investigation.In a red velvet dress with rhinestones outlining the bodice, Thompson held forth at a table with several friends from her congressional days and a stranger who asked, "Aren' you Susie Wong?"
She was talking about the catering business she hopes to start "but I'd rather do it for free. I don't want to charge." She is now a hostess part-time at a Georgetown night club. She said that she did not know if she would be called back as a witness when Park returns to testify later this month.
Udall was one of the few who attempted to make a joke about Park; he asked whether O'Neill planned to use his influence to rededicate the prayer room to call it the "Tongsun Park Memorial Repentance and Meditation Center." It, like most of the strained jokes of the evening, would not have gone over in any other but this very in crowd of politicians and pals.
Even Udall, generally noted for his wit, resorted to most of his already well-pubicized jokes from a recent congressional dinner speech.
Among the most interested, but mystified, persons present were 100 junior hight students from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., who got stranded in Washington and placed $2.55 worth of phone calls to their parents to tell them they couldn't get home to tell that they were going to see the president instead. Their teachers and counselors prevailed upon the Democratic Study Group to let them in the balcony.
During the president's speech, they murmured such things as "we though the president was taller" and "in pictures he looks older, but in real life he looks normal."
After the president's speech it was all downhill for them, and they raced to the phones to talk once again to their parents and brag, as one of them said, "Hi, Mom, I just left the president. Yes, the president of the United States. You see they let us in on the balcony, because they had this roast, or something, for some guy whose name I don't know..."